Bond theme music from Connery to Craig has always been reinvented

In 1995’s GoldenEye, Dame Judy Dench’s M stings James Bond with a fitting description: “A sexist, misogynistic dinosaur and a relic of the cold war.” Of course, she was right.

Ian Fleming, author published Casino Royale, the first novel that described Agent 007’s exciting exploits in espionage, in 1953, right at the beginning of a period of tension between the USA and Britain and the Soviet Union, while the release of Dr.It was 1962. This happened just days before The Cuban Missile Crisis. And while Bond’s aesthetic has changed with the times, the question has always been about whether he can really change as a man, or even if he should.

This is the same principle that applies to Bond’s music. Of course, there’s the James Bond theme itself, Monty Norman and John Barry’s swaggering and muscular blunt instrument that accompanies his incredible feats. Barry created a style guideline for music scores. Even after more than 50 years, Bond’s fans still love Barry’s brassy pomp.

The bigger debate, however, is whether that’s a realistic expectation or a healthy one. Music may provide an unspoken emotional undercurrent, but it’s also a critical element in drawing the audience into the world of the film and keeping them there, especially if that world is unfamiliar. The majestic moon space station is a sight to behold.2001: A Space Odyssey without the intoxicatingly dreamy waltz of Johann Strauss’ “The Blue Danube,” or the lush green of the Shire sans Howard Shore’s earthy melodies in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

The difference with Bond is that he’s only been to space once, and never takes the odd hike to Mordor. He’s in the same world we live in every day, where we are constantly surrounded by an enormously vast palette of musical sounds, so it makes sense that some of that would influence his music. Some aspects of that have had an impact over the years. However, the way that the public reacts to these changes will determine what they want from the music at 007, whether it is good or bad.

Interestingly, one of the biggest reimaginings of Bond’s sound came from John Barry himself, who was given free rein for 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service The instrument had just been released into public consciousness, and was added to the mix. In 1968, electronic music pioneer Wendy Carlos — who would go on to design the score to Tron — recreated the sacred music of baroque luminary Johann Sebastian Bach with a Moog synthesizer, resulting in the smash-hit record Bach Switched OnThis is what it sounds like. Barry also followed his lead and created this futuristic soundscape to enhance his already impressive soundscape. From the opening gun barrel where the synth replaced the usual guitar, this was a fresh new approach for Bond music, and to this day it’s regarded as one of the best scores in the series.

Bond then went to disco. John Barry couldn’t work in the UK in 1977 because of tax issues. Marvin Hamlisch was brought in to help. The Spy Who Was Loving Me. Hamlisch was nominated for three Oscars in 1974. The Stingand the title song and dramatic music to The Way We Were. Although his overall score is quite conventional, Hamlisch did not look to 1976 charts when he composed the sequence before the title.

“I stole a little bit from the Bee Gees,” Hamlisch said in Jon Burlingame’s 2012 superlative tome The Music of James Bond, and indeed his new arrangement “Bond 77” overlaid the driving rhythm from “You Should Be Dancing” with pulsating synths. At the time, Variety said the score “does nothing for the film”, but a similar synth-orchestral hybrid approach was used by Bill Conti for 1981’s Only For Your Eyes which The Hollywood Reporter said was “appropriately versatile” but is still divisive amongst fans. But this is nothing when compared with the 1995 controversy in which audiences were first introduced to Bond’s new soundtrack, which had an extremely European feel, and was indeed too much for many.

Martin Campbell directed the film. GoldenEye was the first outing for Pierce Brosnan, who Bond honcho Albert “Cubby Broccoli” had coveted since the late 1980s. John Barry was not available, so the composing job went to Eric Serra, who had provided music for Luc Besson since 1983’s Le Dernier Combat, but had attained prominence through the then-recent success of Besson’s 1994 film Léon: The ProfessionalThe following is a list of GoldenEyeWith whom he was temp-tracked. But from the first strains of his gun barrel music, it was clear that Bond’s faithful audience was in for a culture shock.

Serra was a person who was content to do his own thing without looking back. His quirky and aggressive modernist sound was as far from John Barry as it gets. Some of his music undoubtedly didn’t fit Bond or the film, such as the jangly metallic idiosyncratic score for the mountaintop race between Bond and Famke Janssen’s Xenia Onatopp, or the frankly weird electro-jazz noodling that was the original cue for the St. Petersburg tank chase. (The version that’s in the film that was arranged by John Altman feels, while being full-on traditional Barry Bond, somewhat incongruous given the rest of the score.) Despite its reputation, Serra’s music has some excellent moments, including some truly stirring melodic material for Bond’s scenes with love interest Natalya (Izabella Scorupco), and some thrilling pieces that feel like a prelude to today’s world of Hans Zimmer-influenced moody action scores (more on him shortly).

Variety called Serra’s score “disappointing” and director Campbell agreed, telling IGN in 2020 that he was “disappointed in the music. Our budget was not that much, and it was limited to what we could do.” The score has become divisive amongst fans, although it does have one unlikely fan in David Arnold, who in the 2006 TV special James Bond’s Greatest Hits called it “quite bold, so unlike anything that had gone before … but it was one of those scores that I think perhaps the world wasn’t really ready for.” Coincidentally, it was Arnold who was chosen as the next composer for James Bond, seen as the rightful heir by none other than John Barry, who suggested him for the job after being approached himself.

Arnold would become 007’s in-house composer for five pictures, including the first two of Daniel Craig’s tenure — Casino Royale(2006) Quantum of Solace (2008) — and in doing so introduced a more contemporary sound, at least for that eraThis is a. Dance music was becoming increasingly popular in the 1990s, with the rise of drum and bass and techno happening in the UK not long before Arnold scored his first Bond movie, 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies. Arnold used electronics in his scores like Serra. But the real difference was his approach to the musical legacy of 007.

“I knew how I wanted it to sound,” said Arnold in The Music of James Bond. “I wanted to do it with one foot in the ’60s and one foot in the ’90s. This film has 35 years worth of musical history, which audiences should hear. Without that music, you’ve got an action movie, you haven’t got a Bond movie.” This is something Serra didn’t consider,And perhaps Thomas Newman didn’t either for his two scores for Skyfall and SpectreIt was. Arnold carried the idea through, and later used electronic elements more forcefully. The World is Not EnoughAnd Die Another DayHe is the first name that people remember when they hear about the next Bond movie.

Arnold’s formula of looking back while looking forward makes perfect sense, especially considering the rich legacy of John Barry’s music. However, can you really go the opposite way? Hans Zimmer’s score to No Time To Die is almost a celebration of Bond, with the composer stating to Variety that frequent collaborator Johnny Marr “wanted to bring guitar back into the score.” and that they were “just embracing our inner John Barry.” The score includes quotations of several previous themes from Barry and Arnold that are very much driven by the story, but it just so happens that they stand out much more than his original music for the film. What’s left once you take those parts away is a standard unmemorable action score.

It is now obvious that the question remains: what will happen next? Will James Bond lovers live in the moment when film music is more complex and opens up to experimentation? Or will they shout for David Arnold until it all falls? Some people believe that the world never ends.

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